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October 2, 2009

Fall has fell boys and girls. Here in the Texas Hills, we have finally been blessed with some rain. It has been a great, gentle rain that is soaking into the parched earth. Everything is turning from brown to green, just the opposite of what fall usually brings. In Johnson City, the purple sage is in bloom. If you are a purple fan, this is the place to be. The cool, moist atmosphere is making everyone hungry so let's get with the patients and see if we can cure their food problems.

Forest from New Albany, Indiana writes:

Hello, Dr. John. I was wondering if you had a smoked meatloaf recipe. A friend turned me on to a few pieces of hickory, red oak and cherry wood. I was going to use an aluminum pan and when the loaves were done, I was going to add potatoes, carrots and onions. I would like a recipe that has all of that in a pan. I figured you might have a recipe up your sleeve. Thanks.

Hi Forest: I don't have a "wrote down" recipe, but I bet we can come up with one. For seasoning for the meat, I would use about a tablespoon of BBQ rub or seasoning per pound. To that I would add about a quarter cup of my favorite BBQ sauce. If the meat is extra lean, I would put in some minced onion for moisture. I would cook/smoke these at a fairly high temperature until the middle reaches 150°F in the center of the loaf.

The vegetables I would boil in salted water until they are just nearly done. Then put them on the smoker with a coat of BBQ sauce to finish them. I think you can go from there. I'm gonna try this if it ever gets cool enough here to light a fire again. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

[Note: I received a note from Forest after he tried the recipe. He said everything worked as planned except the meatloaf was not seasoned enough to suit him. The addition of more seasoning should cure that.]

Pondering too many alternatives in Taos writes:

Here's a question for you, Dr. John. Most people make a roux using one cup of olive oil to one cup of flour. The roux is then cooked over medium or low heat, whilst constantly being stirred, for about 20 minutes until it turns a dark color. The roux is then ready for use. But after the roux is done, some cooks then add a can of tomato paste and continue cooking until the roux returns to the dark color. Then they add a can of tomato sauce and continue cooking until the dark color returns. Which way is better?

Dear Pond: There is no "better way". What you have is two techniques being used.

As you know, roux comes from French cuisine. It is a mix of equal parts of flour and fat. The traditional roux is made with clarified butter. Most roux is not made with vegetable oil. Vegetable oil has a higher smoke point than butter, so you can get it hotter without scorching it. Olive oil, however, is very popular in the roux sandbox. Peanut oil has the highest smoke point, but I get a taste from peanut oil I do not care for.

The color of roux can range from almost white to chocolate dark. The less cooked white roux is used in white sauces and in Texas cream gravy. The darker colors are found mostly in Cajun and Creole cookery. Roux is used principally as a thickening agent. The white roux has little flavor, whereas the dark varieties have a distinct taste. The darker roux has less thickening power. A chocolate roux would have only one-fourth the thickening power of a white roux.

Cajun-style cooking comes from the French Acadians who were displaced to Louisiana. Their style comes from classical French cuisine using what ingredients were available locally. Creole is also French based, but incorporates a large nationality base in its cooking. Cajun-style is found in Western Louisiana and lower East Texas, whereas Creole is based around New Orleans for the most part.

To most people, roux is related to the above mentioned Cajun and Creole cooking. The most popular dish using roux is gumbo. Gumbo has a tomato base. I would suppose your tomato roux cookers are just trying to get a blend with a strong tomato flavor that is unique. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Steve writes:

Hi, Doc. I'm learning how to bake bread, and I don't quite understand what the recipe means by "proofing". Can you help? Thanks.

Steve: Proofing means to check and see if the yeast is working. You mix the yeast and some sugar in warm water and let it set a few minutes and see if it starts to bubble. If it bubbles it means the yeast is alive and active. Yes, yeast is little living spores. When they get wet, they wake up and start eating the sugar and making carbon dioxide gas. This gas is what makes bread rise by filling it with bubbles.

I've never found a pack of yeast that has gone bad. If you look, there is always a use-by date on the package. I just skip the proofing process and start the dough. You can kill the yeast by using water that is too hot. You don't want to use anything over 110°F. You can also kill the yeast by letting the dough rise in a place that is too hot. Between 70 and 80 degrees is ideal. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

See everyone here in the office next month. Have a happy Labor Day!

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

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